Despite Racking Up Three Consecutive Unanimous Votes, FOIA Reform Bill Killed Off By Rep. John Boehner

from the BEHOLD-THE-SYSTEM-IN-ACTION dept

FOIA reform is now truly dead. Earlier this week, it looked as though Sen. Jay Rockefeller might be the one holding the murder weapon. Despite passing unanimously through the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rockefeller placed a hold on the bill, citing nebulous concerns by two regulatory agencies (FTC, SEC -- neither of which were willing to go on the record about their problems with the bill) and something about "law enforcement agencies" being faced with "needless litigation" that would be a drain on their bottom lines. Of course, this ignores the fact that plenty of litigation involving law enforcement agencies is "needless" (because why be proactive about misconduct and abuse when you can just settle later?) and that any agency fighting the War on Drugs/Terror has generally been able to secure funding and equipment with a minimum of hassle.

Rockefeller's hold provoked a deluge pro-FOIA reform phone calls and emails, leading to Rockefeller releasing his hold and the bill moving on with unanimous Senate consent. This booted it back to the House where it ran headlong into Speaker of the House John Boehner, who immediately tabled it.

Newsweek's coverage of Boehner's "opaque" move concludes with this paragraph:

But these improvements may never see the light of day, as Boehner has tabled the bill. In a press conference on Thursday morning, a journalist asked Boehner about the fate of the FOIA reform bill to which he replied, “I have no knowledge of what the plan is for that bill.” If the bill does not make the House’s calendar by the end of the day, the bill dies.
The guy who made the plan for the bill (1. Do nothing) claimed he had no idea what the plan was. If the plan was to kill the reform bill, mission accomplished. Death by Rockefeller was narrowly averted only to result in Death by Boehner -- despite the fact that the FOIA reform sailed through the House earlier with a 410-0 vote.

The Hill performed a brief autopsy.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday night officially declared reforms to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dead this year as the House gaveled out of session.

And he blamed House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for its death.

"And Boehner kills #FOIA improvements," Leahy tweeted at a reporter a little before midnight after the House finished its work on the "cromnibus" government funding bill — the last item of its agenda for the year.
The wonders of our political system continue. Something that received unanimous support -- not only on both sides of legislative branch, but on both sides of the partisan divide -- was dismantled by one man. One man who stood in front of a House that had passed the bill 410-0 and said, "Whatever."

Chances are it was one man swayed by the same regulatory agencies and the industries regulated by them. Transparency advocates suggest Wall Street made a last-minute push to thwart the legislation.
The suspicion among transparency groups is that the financial industry is working to fortify federal open-records exemptions for Wall Street which also exist in states and cities across the country. Those groups also fear the financial industry is aiming to prevent government regulators from erring on the side of transparency when faced with open-records requests for information about the financial industry.

“The negotiation process for this bill has been going on for six months now,” said Amy Bennett, the assistant director of OpenTheGovernment.org and the point person for a coalition of transparency groups working to pass the bill. “But the banks only started raising objections in the last week. Wall Street’s lobbyists are going to their allies on Capitol Hill and are asking them to delay it. But Wall Street just wants to kill the bill.”
Both Sen. Tim Johnson (who argued against the bill before its last-minute Senate passage) and John Boehner have received large amounts of funding from industries tied to Wall Street, according to information gathered by OpenSecrets.org. Boehner stopped the bill in its tracks by keeping it out of Congress' hands during the final moments of the lame duck session. Boehner's implicit message is that the good of the special interests outweighs the good of the many. Thanks to this, government agencies are still free to abuse FOIA exemptions and force the truly tenacious to take their chances in the federal court system if they hope to get their hands on documents the government would rather keep buried.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 12 Dec 2014 @ 1:01pm

    So unanimous support by everyone involved, stopped dead in it's tracks, twice, by single individuals.

    If they can do this for FOIA reforms, does anyone think the exact same thing wouldn't happen if someone tried to 'reform' the NSA, reigning them in? As this shows, all it takes is having a single person in the right spot, and all the desire for change in the world won't mean squat.

    Now, to be clear, I say this not because I don't think they shouldn't try, clearly they should, but rather to address the incredibly foolish claims that 'You get the government you deserve' and 'If you want to fix your government, vote in better people next time'.

    When it takes all of one person to stop a proposed law or amendment dead in it's tracks, even when the overwhelming majority is in support of fixing something, it's pretty freakin' clear that the system is rigged against the public and those that would try and properly do right by them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sorrykb (profile), 12 Dec 2014 @ 7:14pm

      Re:

      Techdirt needs a "depressingly true" button.

      Or maybe just a "well, shit" button. Although the weekly winners would then just be a compendium of bad news.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Dec 2014 @ 1:03am

      Looks kinda like a Dictatorship, don' it?

      Boehner has, before, demonstrated his own veto power by shutting down government entirely. And yet he is still in office and still in position to do so again.

      This pretty much kills the notion of the US being a democracy. Why are we teaching our children it is?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 14 Dec 2014 @ 3:41pm

        Re: Looks kinda like a Dictatorship, don' it?

        If people were told 'Your government is not a democracy, it's closer to a dictatorship with a select few individuals in charge', then they might get angry enough to try and fix the problem, and no one likes uppity peasants.

        Lie to them though, and continue to insist 'No no, you're most certainly mistaken, the USG is totally still a democracy, and your vote counts! If you want to change things, you just need to vote in better people next time, so really, it's your fault things are in the state they are', and most of them will stay complacent.

        Throw a little partisan/my tribe vs your tribe misdirection in the mix and people will be happy enough to blame everything bad on 'the other team', and completely ignore the real sources of the problems, the corrupt system that both teams take advantage of for their own gain.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Dec 2014 @ 7:03pm

          Uppity peasants

          No one likes uppity peasants

          The United States was founded by uppity peasants.

          I think you're right. I think the allure of Fox News is that it always offers the reassuring lie, that cops only shoot / beat bad people, that big business is doing a good job keeping socialists, weirdos and layabouts (e.g. jobless and minimum wage workers) in their place. That our nation has only minor troubles.

          I wonder, then how to change the dialogue to make the American plutocracy part of the intrinsic understanding, that we no longer have rights, that the police are a higher caste, that our vote is meaningless, that napoleonic law is kaput and that we get taxed but get no representation.

          THOSE COLONIAL INGRATES, THEY'RE ONLY HURTING THEMSELVES! LOOK! NOW THEY HAVE NO TEA!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2014 @ 1:49pm

    It's unquestionable at this point that the government does not represent the people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 13 Dec 2014 @ 12:23am

      Re:

      It's unquestionable at this point that the government does not represent the people.

      Oh, it's "represent"? I always thought it was "represses". Or maybe "depresses".

      Maybe we can settle for "depresent"? It's snappier and more American than "disenfranchise".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2014 @ 2:05pm

    Did we expect anything for the people , we're just cattle, the only way is to stop paying taxes , you don't pay employees who don't do their job, period.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2014 @ 4:06pm

      Re:

      In this case, if you don't pay the employees, they've got superior firepower and can freeze your assets and take your belongings. The only ways are to either go political and make a change, or find a new country.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2014 @ 2:09pm

    It is nice to know that you only have to buy out one person to stop a reform.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2014 @ 3:15am

      Re:

      I really hate this tan in a can abusing sob Boehner more than ever, and now for 2 years of him basically being the Prime Minister (I know that doesn't exist in US politics, but the situation is a lot like in countries where the PM has the power and the President not so much).

      It's gonna be ugly for you guys. At least we might dislodge Adolf Harper in October, even if he falls to minority gov again, that'll be really good.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2014 @ 2:10pm

    In the past, $peaker Boehner has spoken about showing solidarity with the taxpayer by flying commercial airliners (too bad he's exempt from airport security). So how about he show some solidarity by filing some FOIAs for us?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    zippy, 12 Dec 2014 @ 2:24pm

    Looks like the Wall Street cronies got themselves a Boehner, unfortunately.

    The bill was killed by Boehner, in the House chambers, with the politicohammer. One man should not have that much power.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2014 @ 2:24pm

    Seems someone who doesn't like FOIA has some dirt on the crazy whining beyatch.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    michael, 12 Dec 2014 @ 2:26pm

    Remember when Republicans were against Big Government?

    ...

    I don't, either.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2014 @ 2:27pm

    Does no-one think that the bill received unanimous backing because it was never going to pass?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sonja (profile), 12 Dec 2014 @ 2:51pm

    Clarity

    I am not a US citizen so please excuse my simple question. How is it possible for a single person to stop a bill like this? I thought everything was voted for by a group of people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 12 Dec 2014 @ 2:58pm

      Re: Clarity

      Because our government is almost totally broken.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2014 @ 3:06pm

      Re: Clarity

      It has to do with some arcane rules on how the House of Representative and the Senate operate, made up by and maintained by those same legislators.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 12 Dec 2014 @ 3:12pm

      Re: Clarity

      corruption and crime rule America, most just prefer not to see it and pretend everything is working just fine as long as they have their bread and circuses

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 12 Dec 2014 @ 3:54pm

      Re: Clarity

      I am not a US citizen so please excuse my simple question. How is it possible for a single person to stop a bill like this? I thought everything was voted for by a group of people.

      As the leader of the House, Boehner has full control over what is actually brought to the floor. So he basically can veto anything by just not bringing it to the floor, as he chose to do here. Similar issue in the Senate. That's why the leader of the House and the leader of the Senate are incredibly powerful positions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 12 Dec 2014 @ 4:32pm

        Re: Re: Clarity

        'Incredibly powerful' seems to be an understatement here, with that kind of ability, it would seem they can literally decide which laws get passed, by simply refusing to allow the ones they disagree with to ever be voted on.

        For a system that's meant to have a set of checks and balances to keep individual parts of it from getting out of hand, allowing two individuals to hold that level of power seems to be completely contrary to the very idea.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Easily Amused (profile), 12 Dec 2014 @ 8:33pm

          Re: Re: Re: Clarity

          the old idea for this was that since the Speaker is put up by his party members, if they went against the will of the party enough, they would be replaced.

          nowadays though, every one of them is too much of a pussy to stick their neck out and try to fix something like this.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            sorrykb (profile), 12 Dec 2014 @ 9:54pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Clarity

            "Will of the party."
            ...
            Wasn't it supposed to be the will of the People that mattered most?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              David, 13 Dec 2014 @ 9:25am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Clarity

              Corporations pay the parties, people pay corporations. If you are unsatisfied with how that indirection works, fight for its removal.

              Stop paying corporations. Don't buy anything that isn't essential. Everything you buy that is sold for more than cost feeds the corporations.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    connermac725 (profile), 12 Dec 2014 @ 2:59pm

    Bonner strikes again

    Bohner bonner same result either way we got stiffed

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 12 Dec 2014 @ 3:10pm

    when the political system is corrupted so that the people have no say at all there is also the option of with fire and sword as a last resort

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2014 @ 3:40pm

    Unbelievable

    >a House that had passed the bill 410-0

    It's time to reject the perennial notion that we can fix a broken system by working within it. The continued acceptance of it only strengthens the powerful while busying the weak with pointless endeavors. It's a war of attrition and we're funding the other side.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    drjimmy (profile), 12 Dec 2014 @ 5:06pm

    Boehner is a sellout traitor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 12 Dec 2014 @ 10:00pm

    Checks and balances

    Good to know the political system in the U.S. to be set up in a manner giving money always a last resort for fending off democracy and spitting in its face.

    There is a silver lining to it but it's all in Boehner's pocket this time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    got_runs? (profile), 13 Dec 2014 @ 9:56am

    Corporatist own the US. The American people are just too stupid to figure it out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2014 @ 11:32am

    Congress needs a reform

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 13 Dec 2014 @ 5:41pm

    Given the way it's pronounced, Rep. Boehner is well-named, methinks! Just sayin'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Dec 2014 @ 1:09am

    And so we discover...

    The US legislative branch believes in privacy after all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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